Boxing Defense 101: Drills

Boxing Defense 101: Drills

To have a good boxing defense you need to know how to evade, block, and catch punches. Let's look at drills to help you improve on these skills.

Published: August 17, 2021

Topics: Drills & Combos, Training

Author: Nikolay Tsenkov

In the previous two parts of this series, we looked at techniques for blocking and catching and evading your opponent's punches. In this third and final article, we'll go through boxing drills to help you learn and practice these defensive boxing techniques.


Shanie Smash Shadowboxing

Useful for practicing: All defensive techniques

In shadowboxing, you use your shadow or reflection to simulate an opponent. Shadowboxing allows you to focus on your precise footwork, movements, punches, range, and overall boxing technique without the distraction of equipment. It is a great way to practice your defensive skills.

To first learn the boxing techniques you will need for defensive tactics, you will have to have some form of coaching, either from a professional trainer (in a gym) or online using pre-recorded videos, like those on FightCamp’s YouTube channel. Training all of those techniques in front of the mirror while shadowboxing is the best way to ensure that you are doing everything right before you move on to practicing them in other exercises or in competition.

[To learn about shadowboxing, read this article by FightCamp Co-Founder and Trainer Tommy Duquette.]

So, while you are in front of the mirror, doing your shadowboxing routine, picture your imaginary opponent throwing jabs and crosses, and respond to them with the slips. Imagine your opponent throws hooks, and respond to those with weaves, etc.

Mitts & Pool Noodles

Useful for practicing: All defensive techniques

Another great way to train both dodging and blocking punches is on the mitts with your trainer. To protect yourself from accidental pokes in the eyes or too rough of contact when you allow a punch to land on you, a good solution would be to use boxing foam sticks (a.k.a. pool noodles) that are very soft and will not hurt you if you miss a punch and you get hit. Parrying the jab doesn't really work with sticks (it does with mitts/pads, though), but everything else - slipping side to side, weaving, pivoting, etc. - works nicely AND your trainer can put some real speed on the shots that may not be possible for them on the mitts.

Here are some boxing defensive footwork drills using pool noodles from FightCamp trainers.


Flo Master & Shanie Smash Sparring

Useful for practicing: All defensive techniques

There is no better way to solidify your learnings than sparring with a live partner.
To practice, you and your boxing partner can engage in controlled sparring, playing through potential scenarios. For example:

  • Boxer A throws the Jab → Boxer B slips

  • Boxer A throws the Jab followed by the Cross → Boxer B slips twice

  • etc.

Of course, doing freestyle sparring is also important, but put more emphasis on controlled sparring, as your main target when you are starting out is to learn.

Slip bag

Useful for practicing: Slipping, Pull back, Weaving, Pivoting

A slip bag is a small compact weight (preferably something soft, such as a 1 pound bag of sand, rice, corn, etc.) that you hang from the ceiling. The weight should be at head level. To start the exercise, simply push it so it starts swinging back and forth.

The idea of this exercise is to imagine the swinging weight to be the punches coming your way. You move your head out of danger by slipping, weaving, and pulling, AND you shadowbox throwing shots back at your imaginary opponent. This drill teaches you rhythm, which is something that is key for all boxers.

[Even something as simple as hanging your keys on a shoelace can be a good enough improvised slip bag.]

Maize bag

Title Maize Bag

Useful for practicing: Slipping, Pull back, Weaving, Pivoting

Similar to the mechanics of a slip bag, the Maize bag is bigger which allows you to not just slip and weave under, but also hit. This means that it needs to be much heavier than a slip bag. It is closer to a heavy bag than to a slip bag in terms of materials, weight, etc. Recently Title Boxing has reimagined the classic maize bag of the 1900’s adding leather casing and better filling materials. Check out their video here. Traditionally, these bags were filled with corn (a.k.a. maize), which in Title’s new version has been replaced with plastic beads. While the slip bag weighs only a few pounds max, the maize bag typically weighs tens of pounds, so it provides a bit more resistance. Still, it’s not a bag that you are meant to train your power on.

The way you would use the maize bag is to not just swing it around and slip, but also hit it with single punches and combinations, and then evade it on the back of the swinging motion.

Double-end bag

Coach PJ Training On a Double End Bag

Useful for practicing: Slipping and Pull back

As the name suggests, the double-end bag is a punching bag that is attached to both the ceiling AND the floor using elastic cords so that the bag springs back and forth and to the side when it’s hit. The double-end bag moves faster than both a slip bag and a maize bag, thus it helps you improve your timing, accuracy and speed, especially when you practice punch combinations with it.

A few boxing combos and movements you could practice are:

  • throw a single straight shot (jab or cross) → slip → slip, as the bag comes right back at you twice

  • jab → cross → slip → slip

  • jab → cross → slip → uppercut

  • jab → cross → hook → wait a bit to get the timing right (it swings side to side after the hook) and throw a cross → slip → slip

  • jab → cross → pull back → cross → slip → slip

Slip Line/Rope

FightCamp Trainers Training on a Slip Line

Useful for practicing: Slipping and Weaving

The slip line or slip rope is a tight string tied between two points. Often boxers simply use a hand wrap. Another popular way to use a slip rope is inside the ring. Tie two ropes from opposite corners that cross in the middle of the ring. You can use a slip rope to practice slipping and weaving.

Here is an example of a drill you can practice using a slip rope:

  • Start at one of the ends of the slip rope in your boxing stance with your guard up and the rope to one side of you

  • Weave to the opposite side with a step forward, slipping under the rope, and repeat back and forth until you get to the other end

  • Return to the starting position, weaving and slipping side-to-side under the rope, but this time going backward

Once you get the footwork and basic movements down, you can add punches as you come out of some/all of the weaves to make it more complex and fun.

Alright, that's a wrap on boxing defense 101! Incorporating a combination of shadowboxing drills and mitt work, and boxing equipment such as a slip bag, maize bag, double-end bag, and slip rope into your training will help you effectively practice and hone your boxing footwork and your boxing defense skills to become a better fighter. If you haven't had the chance to check the previous articles in this series make sure you do. For more boxing and kickboxing training videos, workouts, and tips subscribe to our YouTube channel. Have fun practicing!

Related Articles

Boxing Defense 101: Blocking and Catching
Boxing Defense 101: Don't Get Hit!
4 Defensive Blocking Drills For Boxing
Boxing Movement and Footwork Training: Slip Rope Drill
Boxing Footwork Drills For Beginners

Nikolay Tsenkov

Nikolay Tsenkov is a dad, husband, entrepreneur, and boxing aficionado. He has trained alongside national and European champions and professional boxers. He is an avid student of boxing, but enjoys all martial arts.

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